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The tooting trio travel to Tamilnadu

Tuesday morning started with a couple of visitors. One was Radha – she had come the previous morning claiming to be a kidney patient, but without any medical records, so I had suspected a scam and had refused to play ball. But she was back with a huge wadge of paperwork, so she got her money – Rs. 1,000 (£11) for a month’s supply of medicines, plus Rs. 200 for travel down to Trivandrum for a hospital appointment. She looked poor – if an Indian woman is badly dressed, she is in serious need.

The other was E Sakiyel, an elderly man who had been referred to a hospital in Trivandrum; whilst the operation itself was free, he would need a few days’ accommodation in the city, probably some meds, and help to keep body and soul together whilst he recuperated (the recommended convalescence period was two months!).

After a visit to another special needs school to see what we could learn from them (or vice versa) and a quick paddle in the sea, we called at Shanti Bhavan, a home for destitute men and a couple of women which we support. It is run on a shoestring, and as a result is not up to the standards of Thanal House. However, all the residents are there voluntarily – there is nothing to stop them leaving – so they clearly regard it as better than life on the streets. If nothing else they have food and a roof over their heads. One of our concerns had been that the owner of the property that they rent wanted to develop it; it was a great relief to hear that they had been granted a stay of eviction of up to five years.

Finally we had dinner with Richard, an ex-patriate living in India who was hoping to collect medical equipment and disability aids and ship them in a container to India. His plans are at an early stage, and we were able to tell him about our experience of sending containers to Zambia as well as other things. But if his plans come to fruition then there are great opportunities for our Indian colleagues to benefit.

Today we have been travelling to Asha Kiran Ashram, the special needs centre that we set up a decade ago in Tamil Nadu. As it was a long journey we broke it with a visit to a temple alongside a river populated with lots of sacred fish, then a nice walk around the Thenmala reservoir – there are lots of cheeky monkeys there, and finally Five Falls, a place of pilgrimage for Hindu pilgrims – Jute washed her sins away there with the best (or should that be the worst?) of them. There were lots more monkeys there as well. When we finally arrived, we were welcomed by the children (which we think had been kept in late for us) with posies and singing the national anthem. They were soon on their way home and we were able to start our conversation about how we develop the centre.

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